Album Review – Florida Georgia Line’s ‘Dig Your Roots’

Florida Georgia Line Roots

Surprise! As you can see from the title, I decided to review something none of you were expecting: the new Florida Georgia Line album. For the past few months the site has moved away from negative reviews and started to focus solely on all of the great music that’s being produced. It wasn’t just because I felt we weren’t reviewing enough of great music. It was also because we were just sick of doing them and didn’t feel challenged and needed a break from it. But now I’m in the mood again to hand out a negative review now and then and what better to place to dive back in than Florida Georgia Line. Their last album Anything Goes won our inaugural Worst Album of the Year award in 2014. So I prepared myself for the worst with their new record Dig Your Roots, especially when I saw it was 15 songs long (my rule of thumb is no more than 12). While there is a fair share of bad music on this album, there’s actually a few positive things surprisingly.

The sound of crickets, frogs and a banjo play in “Smooth.” Something tells me this isn’t a sign of what’s to come on this album. Although I’m surprised the banjo continues throughout the song with some slightly heavy pop production. The song itself is about how smooth a girl is, from her body to her personality. For a song about a girl from Florida Georgia Line, there isn’t a lot of misogyny here. This is actually one of the better songs on the album, so I guess the start is smooth. That quickly changes though on the album’s title track, “Dig Your Roots.” We’re immediately hit with Brian Kelley rapping. Wonderful. The guy who never sings finally gets to say something and it’s terrible rapping. The song is about digging your roots, essentially appreciating family and where you’re from. An admirable theme, except the production is so damn annoying and overbearing it’s hard to hear the lyrics. This is the first of many moments on the album where Joey Moi completely ruins any chance of a song being good.

“Life Is A Honeymoon” takes a tacky Kenny Chesney direction, as Florida Georgia Line tackles beach music. For some reason this duo thinks they’re good at reggae, but they’re not. They did however have enough foresight actually bring someone onto the song who does. That would be Ziggy Marley, the son of reggae legend Bob Marley. If he did this song it might not have been half bad. But this is on a country album, not a reggae album. The album’s smash hit lead single “H.O.L.Y.” is next. As I explained in my original thoughts on this song in the Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music, this song just has no edge. It’s vanilla, banal and a straight adult contemporary track. And I feel like all this song gets done doing is repeating the word “holy” over and over. It’s just so obnoxious. Then there’s the line about touching heaven and I couldn’t roll my eyes any harder.

The one that never sings gets his chance to shine again on “Island.” In fact Kelley gets to sing for the entire song and it’s actually not the only time it happens on this album. This song is about a man feeling like he’s on an island with his woman because she’s the world to him. As much as it pains me to say it, I enjoy this a little bit as a harmless pop song because it has a good hook and there’s some sentiment there. It could have been better if the writers of this song actually took more time to add depth to it though. The current and second single of the album “May We All” follows. I just covered this in the Pulse too, but I would actually like to present a different take on it. After giving it further listens and hearing it in the context of the album, I actually like it more (I probably shouldn’t have re-read Sturgill’s rant before reviewing it). The themes of the simple life and the lessons you can learn throughout them still aren’t creatively amazing, but they pull it off and McGraw’s presence really helps give the song a sense of legitimacy about it.

“Summerland” is the kind of garbage I’ve come to expect and hate from Florida Georgia Line. This vapid, shallow summer song is why people hate the duo. It has absolutely nothing to say and shamelessly forces lots of clichés and namedrops to satisfy the gullible demo of people who enjoy this music. It’s like a Pitbull song, only there’s no charisma whatsoever and the lyrics aren’t catchy. This song belongs in the garbage bin next to everything Chris Lane has ever released. The barrage of annoyance continues on “Lifer.” I don’t know where to start with this Sharknado mess of a song. The lyrics sound like something the Internet wrote. It’s not country, even if they jammed an out-of-place steel guitar into the chorus. I bet that was the last thing added in the song. I think my biggest problem with this song is when the duo utters they’re “a product of George Strait.” They also reference the great Strait song “Check Yes or No.” Words can’t properly describe my reaction to this, so I need some help from actor/Mongoloid Nicholas Cage. Take it away Nick:

Nic Cage laughing

The problems of “Summerland” show up again on “Good Girl, Bad Boy.” The lyrics are so awkwardly terrible, as the duo sings some dull, meaningless tune about the ultimate cliché of a good girl and bad boy dating each other. Riveting stuff! Are Danny and Sandy going to pop out and break into song and dance too? “Wish You Were On It” wishes it were edgy with its sudden stop and starts throughout. This is supposed to be a heartbreak song, but like Cole Swindell on his new album earlier this year that’s full of these types of songs, the lyrics do nothing to create a sense of heartbreak. The same can be said of the instrumentation, which is more upbeat than anything resembling sad. This song was defeated before it even began.

The most insulting song on Dig Your Roots might be “God, Your Mamma, And Me.” This is the much hyped collaboration between one of the current terrors of country music and one of the biggest headaches of 90s radio. This is the song with the Backstreet Boys. I did not miss these guys and they still annoy me. But you know as angering as it is that the Backstreet Boys are featured on a “country” album, this is probably the most honest admittance from Florida Georgia Line. They’re full of shit when they proclaim to be a product of Strait, but they’re absolutely the product of boy bands of the 90s. So I’ll give them credit for honesty on “H.O.L.Y. II: Electric Boogaloo.” The sleepy “Music Is Healing” is next. I say sleepy because you’ll immediately forget this song after you hear it. Set to a dance pop beat, this duo sings about how songs are healing. A sentiment I agree with, but Florida Georgia Line has no clue what it means to make music that is a therapeutic experience when 90% of their output is about partying and tailgate sex.

At a whopping 15 songs long, I expected this album to have one “Dirt” moment and it finally happens on “While He’s Still Around.” With Kelley on lead vocals, it’s about a son wanting to make the most of the time he has left with his father before he passes away one day. He hopes to have many more moments and make him a proud grandfather before the inevitable phone call comes saying his father is dead. The instrumentation consists mostly of acoustic guitar and a hint of steel guitar (Joey Moi actually restrained himself from ruining it). This is an honestly pretty good country song and I would say even better than “Dirt,” making this Florida Georgia Line’s best song ever. I’m keeping my fingers crossed this is a single. Also a fact about this song that might stun you is Chase Rice helped write it.

“Grow Old” follows and is yet another pretty good song from the duo. This time with Hubbard on lead vocals, the song is about a husband hoping to spend the rest of his life with his love and grow old together. The song even goes into detail about how the relationship isn’t going to perfect all the time and they’ll suffer through hardships like counting pennies and eating out of a microwave to get by. There’s even noticeable steel guitar. Despite the mess at times on this album, Florida Georgia Line can claim two pretty good country songs on it. Dig Your Roots finally comes to an end with “Heatwave.” What I said about “Summerland” above you can essentially repeat for this song. You think they would want to end the album with their two best songs, but instead they wanted to remind us of the crap they settle on to churn out.

Dig Your Roots is a pretty mediocre album, but is also the best Florida Georgia Line has released so far in their career. Their first two albums were pretty close to bottom of the barrel, so they had nowhere to go but up. It’s only a small improvement, but an improvement nonetheless. The two songs that stand out by far are “While He’s Still Around” and “Grow Old,” two of the best songs they’ve ever released. There are a few average/above average tracks, while the rest you can easily skip. The majority of the album is filled with the kind of crap we’ve come to expect from Florida Georgia Line. For their sake they’ve successfully evolved into a safe, adult contemporary sound that will save them from the fate of irrelevancy that many bro country acts are now facing. Surprisingly Dig Your Roots is not one of the worst country albums of the year, but Florida Georgia Line is still nowhere close to calling themselves good, let alone a legitimate country act.

Grade: 4/10

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24 thoughts on “Album Review – Florida Georgia Line’s ‘Dig Your Roots’

  1. B.O.R.I.N.G.
    Faster tracks, slower tracks, Hubbard tracks, Kelley tracks, tracks about daddy, tracks about girls, tracks with Marley or BSB…it sounds like the same song. The album is a small step in the right direction but still so unimportant. No highlight. 2/10.

    New album: Dallas Smith – Side Effects – 12 tracks – Dallas Smith/604 Records/Blaster – Released (09/02)
    The canadian one-man version of FGL is back with his new “country” album. Again produced by Joey Moi.
    Songwriters: Ross Copperman, Ashley Gorley, Rodney Clawson, Jesse Frasure, Shane McAnally, Rhett Akins… . Melodic pop-country. You get what you pay for.
    FGL or Dallas Smith? Dallas Smith! Better voice & more or less better songs. No highlight. 5/10.

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  2. FGL just doesn’t make good music. Hubbard can’t sing and Kelley just has uninspired vocal deliveries. “While He’s Still Around” is far and away FGL’s best song. But BK just makes the song sound sooooooo boring.

    Overall, just a terrible, snooze fest of an album

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    • I do want to review that one. Hopefully I’ll find time. It wasn’t available on my streaming service (Google Play) at first, but is now. I’ve given a couple listens and I definitely have something to say about it.

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      • Yeah, it’s that kind of album that is seldom country (“LAX” the most obvious country song on there) but for what it’s worth is an enjoyable album that also feels and sounds honest as though it’s akin to one long road trip in his VW van and its sound is influenced by all the many different types of classic rock, blues, country and 90’s alternative he grew up on.

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  3. Yeah, this album is definitely better than “Anything Goes” and shows signs of promise they could have easily expanded upon further.

    Unfortunately, the album suffers from three key flaws. Firstly, the production mostly comes across as too sterile and phlegmatic: which the latter shouldn’t EVER be attributed to an energetic act like this duo. Secondly, too many of the tracks just tend to sound samey and interchangeable and thus it’s easy to see how this album could have been pared down to ten or eleven tracks since a few sound like drowsy duplicates. And finally, some of their stabs at “maturity” just smack as being treated as obligatory rites of passage they HAVE to embrace as opposed to truly wearing them, which undercuts their credibility.

    *

    “Smooth” opens the album and, honestly, I could easily have seen myself liking this well enough based on hearing the live debut clip first. I gather this is supposed to be their version of “Fishin’ In The Dark” more or less, and let’s just say it simply sounds much better live: because the studio version comes across as too synthetic. And the vocal track just sounds out of place with the rest of the audio: making for an awkward listen where it’s as though they’re doing karaoke over musical wallpaper. This should have came out a lot better than it did in the studio because, again, I actually think it’s one of their better songs that fall under the party category.

    The title track follows, and you immediately begin to notice a pattern: lyrics that are superior to their previous average output as a whole nonetheless undermined by Moi’s uninspired, shove-everything-to-the-front-of-the-mix-and-sterilize-it production. That track also sounded much better outside the studio. Same story with “Life Is A Honeymoon”. They name-drop two music legends from previous decades and Ziggy Marley quixotically shout-outs “FGL”, but the lyrics aren’t that bad. It’s just that the instrumental production is HORRENDOUS on that track and Tyler Hubbard sounds awkwardly out of place there.

    Much has already been said about the so-so “H.O.L.Y.”, but while that dull yet harmless track does have semblances of bare-boned instrumentation, efforts to Xerox “H.O.L.Y.” elsewhere come across as worse because they sound even more synthetic. It begins instantly with “Island”. If you were to listen to “Island”, “Lifer”, “God, Your Mama & Me” and “Heatwave” back-to-back-to-back-to-back, you could easily mistake it for being the same song outside of which of the duo is singing the track. And what immediately strikes you is the fact that Brian Kelley tends to sing lead on most of these drowsy duds and oddly, while he is certainly a better vocalist than Tyler Hubbard, it’s clear his potential is mostly short-changed here because there lacks any distinctive quality and potency to his voice on those tracks and it somehow makes Tyler Hubbard sound more desirable in result because at least his annoying twang is recognizable. Seriously Kelley: What is up with you trying to go all Urban AC slow-jamming on us?

    The best of those four tracks is easily “God, Your Mama & Me”. Honestly, in spite of its tepid production, the vocal melody is actually strong on this track and the Backstreet Boys’ vocals blend well with the duo’s. It’s quite believable that the duo were raised on their music compared to, say, Hank Williams……………….and this just feels like an honest collaboration with a group they truly admire. The other three tracks are ruined by toothless production and some embarrassing lyrics. For instance, in “Lifer”, Kelley sings: “God knows that I’m a product of George Strait, and dammit all I’m sayin’ to you, I done check yes and gave my mama’s ring to you…” Weeeeeeaaaaakkk! It gets even worse with the album-closing “Heatwave”: where Kelley tries to convince us he’s the Mac Daddy and knows how to turn the ladies on, A double shot in my Crystal light my ass! And “cherokee skin”? What the f***?

    Even still, it’s still not as awful as the lyrical conceit of “Good Girl, Bad Boy”. Ah yes: yet another effort that romanticizes “good girls” trying to “save” bad boys even if to the detriment of said good girls. Yeah: real mature, boys! I don’t see ANYTHING going wrong with this scenario! (eye roll) And you can tell both here and on “Summerland” that it was as though, after recording the bulk of the tracks, that the duo suddenly felt: “S***! We forgot to write energetic party songs, man! Oh no, our fans are gonna kill us! What do we do, brah!”. And Moi said: “Don’t sweat it! We have thirteen tracks already, we can round it off to fifteen! Just cut a couple of the songs you do best!” So they did……………………..but yeah: they feel like token songs instead of anything distinctive and somehow STILL sound more boring than their previous party songs.

    *

    The album’s best song is easily “While He’s Still Around”, hands down.

    That track demonstrates Brian Kelley’s potential as a distinctive vocalist, as well as their songwriting chops. Here, they feel no need to rely on name-drops or overdo checklist descriptors. It’s just a genuinely heartfelt reflection on family and impermanence that honestly made me tear up reflecting on the loss of my grandfather in January and the need to see my grandmother again before it’s her time as well.

    “Grow Old” is pretty good, too. The production is bland here too, but unlike most other tracks on this album, it doesn’t get in the way of the vocal melody and intimate warmth of this wedding song in the making. Wedding songs are pretty much expected to be vanilla-sounding, but this has some genuine charm to it as well as believable lyrics about the virtues of eating from microwaves and counting pennies to see life and love through for both themselves and future kids. Not that they’ll need to do either now that they’re a staple country radio act, but this is clearly a song geared for the masses and it will easily hit home with many.

    And “Music Is Healing” is cheesy in every way, shape and form and is held back due to some bad production: especially with the electronic effects. But, I can easily see it reimagined into something really potent in a more stripped-down form. And, to his credit, Hubbard has rarely sounded better than he does on this particular track. Same story with “May We All”. The lyrics are held back by checklist descriptors and the production by Audio Wars, but it’s not bad as a whole.

    *

    In the end, I’m simply feeling gravely disappointed and underwhelmed by this album as opposed to outraged.

    This SHOULD have been better, and it’s inexcusable it wasn’t. But it’s not among the year’s worst releases either (the worst currently belongs to Chris Lane’s “Girl Problems” by a wide margin) and just comes across as largely forgettable and lethargic in its pacing and tone. And lethargic is pretty much the single most insulting adjective you can attribute to Florida Georgia Line based on most of their previous track record.

    I’m thinking a Decent to Strong 4 out of 10 here.

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  4. Well, at least they’ve graduated from bad to boring. “While He’s Still Around” is decent, but that Backstreet Boys thing is an abomination that they should’ve left on the cutting room floor.

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  5. At first I was excited to hear Brian Kelley actually sing on “Island”… After about 5 seconds the novelty wore off and I realized he has no vocal personality or charisma.

    That aside, this album wasn’t good, but it wasn’t awful. Aside from the collab with the Backstreet Boys, there’s not any song I would really call bad, even the stupid party songs. Hey, there are a few songs I’d buy if it weren’t for Joey Moi’s insistence on making every song sound as awkward and disjointed as possible. Island and While He’s Still Around are seriously good songs. Not as good as Black Tears or Dirt, but they’re really good. Sadly, every song on this album is held back by cliche lyrics. When the lyrics aren’t boring and cliche, they’re cringeworthy. Almost every song has the typical production gaffes that Joey Moi is infamous for. It holds what would otherwise be a mediocre, forgettable album back.

    It is nice to hear BK in front of a mic for once. It is nice to hear FGL at least make an attempt to give critics what they’ve always wanted, and in some cases they succeeded. It may not be saying much, but this is their best album. I’ve been waiting for this duo to match the quality of their first EP for years. This album is a small step in the right direction.

    3.5/10

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  6. What’s inevitably going to happen after this album winds down, is that Florida Georgia Line will revert back to their party-hardy formula to a large extent on their fourth album.

    Why? Because the duo keeps saying they make “music for their fans”. In other words, they think as entertainers as opposed to serious artists. There might be a fraction that prefer this easier-to-digest brand of commercial accessibility from them, but I can assure you the vast majority of their fanbase EXPECTS bigger, louder and dumber-sounding anthems that herald endless summer and good times.

    And, honestly, I can’t help but feel partially responsible that we got this decidedly lethargic and tamer result. After all, we’ve kept clamoring on and on about how this duo needs to grow the hell up and picked on them as “the Nickelback of country music”. What did you think was going to happen: especially when they had hardly grounded themselves into maturity and were caught up in the expectations of shifting to a different gear after the decline of the much-maligned sub-genre they were a torchbearer of?

    In a way, Florida Georgia Line just can’t seem to win outside of commercial returns. Much of it is their own fault because of the gimmicky corner they painted themselves into, but part of it is also a shame because I still maintain they are more charismatic and reasonably likeable in person compared to many of their peers that have also contributed to bro-country. And so it’s hard not to sympathize with this duo to a certain extent in that they at least tried to listen to their critics, and still fell rather short.

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    • “Music for their fans”.
      Here are the numbers (according to Billboard Country Update – 09/06):
      Dig Your Roots sold 126.000 (Billboard Top Country Albums – New – #1) & “145,000 equivalent album units” (Billboard 200 – New – #2).
      Anything Goes started with 197.000 units (2014).

      “What’s inevitably going to happen after this album winds down, is that Florida Georgia Line will revert back to their party-hardy formula to a large extent on their fourth album.”

      Back to the old formula is one possibility. The “old” fans will not be very happy with the “new” sound.
      A new producer & new co-writers might be the solution for the next album.
      Will country radio play FGL feat. Tim McGraw with “May We All” & the current Tim McGraw solo single (“How I’ll Always Be”? Or will radio push one of the tracks? The Big & Rich feat. Tim McGraw track lost the bullet. Three Tim McGraw tracks in the Top 30. Overkill.

      Billboard Country Update – 09/06:
      Billboard Country Airplay: #1 – Jake Owen
      Billboard Hot Country Songs: #1 – FGL (18 weeks)
      Billboard Country Indicator: #1 – Kelsea Ballerini (3 weeks)

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      • The fact they were unable to hold off Barbara Streisand for the composite chart #1 is actually a fitting analogy: in that though I personally don’t care for her music, Barbara Streisand deservedly has remained a cultural force because she has established a niche for herself over the years in countless professions while maintaining an authenticity as an entertainer and as an ambassador for women and countless causes. She may not have a charting single for nearly twenty years now, but it’s her authenticity and cultivating a loyal following that has made her remain a force to be reckoned with.

        Still, 145,000 is a respectful debut week haul for Florida Georgia Line considering the continuing downward spiral in physical sales. I wasn’t expecting their album to match or eclipse the figures of “Anything Goes” because that album had the advantage of coming on the heels of a breakout double-platinum blockbuster of a debut. “Anything Goes”, in contrast, was a largely front-loaded era in which “Dirt” was the only single likely to have some sort of long-term resonance (possibly “Confession”) while the other #1 hits just didn’t feel remotely as eventful as those from their debut. So with “Dig Your Roots” coming on the heels of more of a “Ho hum!” effort, I think these returns were to be expected and are still good for an act like them.

        I wholeheartedly agree that Joey Moi is the main person holding this duo back. I highly doubt they’re going to give him the boot given their outspoken admiration for him, but it would serve them well in the long term if they switched their creative team. I obviously don’t expect them to go all Dave Cobb on us (imagine that, hahaha!) but considering David Nail has repeatedly been tapping into a middle ground between Elton John-like piano ballads and modern electronic polish, perhaps a Chuck Ainlay-Frank Liddell pairing would be a promising fit for them.

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